A practical guide that shows BIPOC actors how to break down the audition process rather than being broken down by the entertainment industry and its practices of exclusion and bias.
Working in an environment that often stereotypes or attempts to “universalize” experiences, it’s more important than ever that actors consider how culture, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and ability are inseparable and important parts of their identity that should not be minimized and can instead enhance their work. In Breaking It Down: Audition Techniques for Actors of the Global Majority, Nicole Hodges Persley and Monica White Ndounou share real-world audition strategies that centers the experiences of actors of color. They combine practical advice, cultural studies, Black feminist perspectives, and lived experiences to offer intersectional approaches to auditioning.
The ten steps outlined in this book aid actors across racial lines seeking to develop the necessary skills to break down a character and script while affirming their full selves into the audition to book the role. Building on the momentum of the #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, and Time’s Up movements, Breaking It Down emboldens actors of the global majority to embrace every aspect of their identities rather than leaving themselves behind in an effort to gain entry and access to the entertainment industry
Nicole Hodges Persley is an associate professor of American Studies and African and African American Studies at the University of Kansas. She is the a courtesy faculty member of the Department of Theatre & Dance. Hodges Persley is a member of SAG/AFTRA/AEA and Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC). She has performance and directing credits in regional theater, television and film. Notable directing credits include Midnight Black, Rachel, Dutchman, Sunset Baby, and her award winning short films Epiphany and Abishai. She is the author of the forthcoming book Sampling and Remixing Blackness in Hip-hop Theater and Performance. She is the Artistic Director of KC Melting Pot Theatre, Kansas City’s premier Black Theatre company. Hodges Persley the co-founder of Create Ensemble, a digital platform for creative artists of color, and the founder of Black Performance Project, a virtual multimodal maker space.
Monica White Ndounou is an associate professor of theater and the 2017-2018 Sony Music Fellow at Dartmouth College. She is the founding Executive Director of The CRAFT Institute and the award-winning author of Shaping the Future of African American Film: Color-Coded Economics and the Story Behind the Numbers. Also an actor, director and member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC), her notable directing credits include Pass Over, Gem of the Ocean, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. She is a founding member of the National Advisory Committee of The Black Seed, a national strategic plan to create impact and thrivability for Black theater institutions and initiatives. She is an alum of The Black Arts Institute and a co-founder of Create Ensemble, a digital platform for creative artists of color
Persley and Ndounou—accomplished educators, performers, and directors who cofounded CreateEnsemble, a social media platform for artists of color—have written an acting guide specifically for people of the “global majority” (the more than 80 percent of the world’s population that is nonwhite). Focusing on stage audition skills that can easily be applied to screen acting, the authors encourage actors of the global majority (AGM) to treat auditions like job interviews. They provide practical guidance on establishing boundaries, developing a mission statement, increasing emotional vocabulary, creating self-taped auditions, vetting agents and managers, creating résumés, and developing a social media presence. Persley and Ndounou discuss how to handle situations where AGM are asked to read for dehumanizing roles that rely on racial or gender stereotypes; they also make the case that Stanislavski-based techniques, which push performers to disconnect from their emotions and gender and racial identity, can be harmful and limiting for AGM. Everyone involved in the performing arts, from professors to casting directors to actors to students, especially those just starting out, should read this eye-opening work.
Timing is everything, and this book couldn’t have come at a better moment as film and theater companies seek to embrace equity and inclusion in front of and behind the camera and on and off the stage. Experienced theater professionals Persley and Ndounou offer a 10-step program that focuses “on breaking down the process of preparing for and performing in an audition, rather than being broken down by the system.” These steps include approaches to establishing boundaries, playing the action, and identifying the emotions, and all are meant to help the student or aspiring actor develop a successful audition strategy and an effective acting process. Readers are encouraged to start keeping an acting journal, using the prompts provided after each step. Additional resources include lists of “Supplemental Stanislavsky-Based and Non-Eurocentric Techniques Developed by African American Actor Trainers,” “Non-Eurocentric Acting Approach University Programs,” and “Theatres of the Global Majority with Actor Training Opportunities.” Further resources may be found at www.BreakingItDownBook.com. This is an important guide for all theater students and aspiring actors, especially those who identify as BIPOC.
Breaking It Down may become one of the most important books ever written. Monica and Nicole prepare actors of the global majority for the real deal with concrete steps to.take to achieve success as well as how to avoid audition trauma. At the book's core is the much appreciated, very personal essential assertion of standing firmly in ownership of the power and beauty of one's own authentic creative self. Bravo and thank you!
BIPOC actors face a unique set of biases and stereotypes in Hollywood. Breaking It Down: Audition Techniques for Actors of the Global Majority is a revolutionary and practical resource that encourages actors of the global majority to use what makes them unique rather than fit into stereotypes created by a predominantly white entertainment industry. I highly recommend Breaking It Down to all BIPOC actors—whether they are just starting out, or whether they are veterans who want a fresh perspective on how to book gigs by (re)claiming their identities.
Breaking It Down is a welcome addition to the crowded shelf of “how to” acting books. It separates itself from the pack by approaching the craft of acting holistically—encouraging BIPOC actors, “actors of the global majority,” to embrace their full selves. To bring it ALL into the room. Self-knowledge is the key to truthful storytelling. No matter whose story you’re telling. We are who we are as artists because of, not in spite of, our uniqueness. If we want to be truly seen we must be brave enough to hone our skills and confront obstacles with honesty and excellence that cannot be denied. Breaking It Down provides tools and exercises to do that work. The authors challenge the reader to “Remember the 3 B’s: Break it down. Bring it. Book it.” I will add one more B for them: “Bravo!”
Finally! An astonishing twenty-first treasure trove for actors representing a range of cultural backgrounds and identities. In ten chapters, an understandable, explicit, practical how-to-audition book that offers valuable insight and instruction for actors of the global majority auditioning for roles on the stage or camera. Read this book!
7/15/21: University of Kansas interviews the author on the book.